One of the never-ending discussions of working people deals with how to manage our work and home lives. There are so many different conversations about how to deal with it: implementing a results only work environment (ROWE), meshing personal and professional and dealing with it singularly, or declaring the whole concept of work life balance bunk. Regardless of your viewpoint, there will be moments when you have both a work demand and a home priority that take place at the same time. That’s the dilemma this reader faces.
I recently got a new job. I was very up front before I was hired that I am a single parent with small children. My boss (and his boss, a VP) keep telling me that after hours events are mandatory (yet they will not pay for a sitter). Now there is a conference (4 nights) and again I am required to attend.
I have told both my bosses that you can’t board children the way you board pets and my family is not willing to care for them for that length of time. I have offered to attend via conference call or Skype and those ideas were rejected. I am simply told to “make arrangements”.
Can they discipline / reprimand / fire me for not attending? What are my options? I need this job but the “support” I was told about in the interview doesn’t seem to exist. Please help. Thank you!
I think this story is reflective of work/life issues that are a common occurrence. Probably more common than we want to admit at times. It raises several issues.
Individuals and organizations need to define “support”. In this situation, I don’t know what was agreed upon between the new hire and the company. But I would suggest to both parties, you need to clearly define what support means. For example, is the company willing to support the person on a daily basis with dropping off and picking kids up from school but the employee needs to attend the conference because it’s such an important event? These are the topics that should be discussed in adequate detail and agreed upon – preferably before hiring.
Individuals should figure out what matters. And I mean what truly matters. Now, I’m not saying kids don’t matter. While I don’t have children, I have people who are important in my life. That being said, I’ve worked on my birthday, my wedding anniversary, Christmas Day, etc. And I’ve worked with people where every single event in their personal lives was important and they didn’t flex at all. If the company is willing to work with you, be prepared to share what events in your personal life are negotiable and which ones aren’t. Be as specific as possible and be prepared for pushback.
Companies should evaluate what is really a command performance. I know it’s terrific to have the entire management team at certain events. And companies believe every event is critically important. But sometimes everyone really doesn’t need to be there. If an organization has an annual event that’s also a command performance, it might be beneficial to tell people during the hiring process. It eliminates all the confusion.
Realize that “stuff happens”. Even when you have all these conversations, clearly define expectations, and agree upon support, something might happen that will blow the plan out of the water. Years ago, I was scheduled to attend a company meeting. It was an important meeting; they all are. The morning of the meeting, Mr. Bartender got an eye infection and needed to go to the emergency room. I called my boss and told them I would be late to the meeting. My boss’ reply, “No, you need to attend the meeting. Your husband is a grown man and can drive himself with one eye.” Let me just say I didn’t consider that to be the right answer.
To give everyone the benefit of doubt in this story, my advice is to re-establish exactly what support means. Hopefully everyone involved can reach an agreement they can live with.
What do you think? Any additional advice you can share with this reader?
Image courtesy of DrasticJo